ROXANA — The Roxana Shells played host to the final day of the seventh annual Roxana Tournament on Saturday, escaping the grasps of the rival East Alton-Wood River Oilers in three games and ultimately finishing fourth as a team.
The Shells advanced to the third-place match to face Mount Olive after winning 16-25, 25-17, 15-10 against the Oilers in Pool A play Saturday morning.
"We changed our defense this week, so I figured the front line would struggle, "EA-WR head coach Patti Scott said. "I see progress and I see them building confidence. I know we are a good team. They just need to learn to play as a team and not be so hard on themselves."
After taking a 4-0 lead in Game 1 with Roxana junior Niah Bevolo at the serving line, the Oilers came back to take control of the game. Building a 10-5 lead over the Shells, the Oilers maintained more than a five-point lead for the remainder of the set to claim the win 25-16.
The Shells answered in Game 2, jumping out to a 4-1 lead over their rival and never looked back.
Roxana led the charge while capitalizing on minor mistakes made by the Oilers and some calls that forced the two teams to replay for points throughout the match. The Shells topped EA-WR 25-17 in the second game, forcing the matchup into a best-of-three scenario.
"I think this was like a coming-out party for our girls," Roxana head coach Mike McKinney said. "I knew what they were capable of and today they came out and did it. To have to go three games against the Oilers, ugh, every point was like pulling teeth with no Novocaine. I feel bad for Wood River, probably two of the three points we had to replay in that match should have gone in their (Oilers) favor. A coach can hope that those things will balance out over the course of a season, but that's a hope."
Game 3 went point for point until the Shells found their rhythm to take a 10-7 lead over the Oilers. Junior Taylor Westfall and senior Kara Meyer kept the Oilers on their heels throughout the match. EA-WR found a push late, but the Shells were able to capitalize with timely points from Braeden Lackey and Bevolo to take the win 15-10.
We know every time we play Wood River, it's going to be a tough matchup no matter what the sport is," McKinney said. "These girls know each other off the court and while they're playing, they want those bragging rights. Once they step off the court, they're friends. Luckily we did enough to get the win.
"Taylor (Westfall) is nursing a leg and she's maybe a bit hesitant. I can't ask for much more from her, the other girls are really stepping it up. We've watched Wood River and we knew that a lot of their hits come from the middle so we tried to adjust for that."
The Shells took a break while the Oilers prepared to face the Marquette Explorers for fifth place in the tournament. Roxana went on to face Mount Olive for third place, but Roxana settled for fourth after falling 14-25, 25-20, 15-10 against the Wildcats.
The Oilers went on to claim the fifth place spot over Marquette, winning in two games 25-19, 25-22. Calhoun took top honors over Jerseyville, prevailing 25-9, 25-14 in the championship match.
ROXANA 16 25 15
EA-WR 25 17 10
ROXANA: Niah Bevolo 13 assists, 3 kills, 5 points, 3 aces; Kara Meyer 4 kills; Brittany Alexander 9 assists; Taylor Westfall 10 kills, 1 assist, 9 points, 3 aces; Jordan DiPaolo 4 kills, 2 assists; Braeden Lackey 3 kills, 8 points, 1 ace
EA-WR: Lexie Johnson 3 kills, 4 blocks; Shelby Yarborough 3 kills, 3 blocks; Brittany Grayson 10 service points, 2 aces; Natalie Mundel 8 digs, 14 service points, 2 aces; Tori Covington 8 digs.